13 Things Not to Miss When in Ghana

An acquaintance who is going to Ghana for the first time in December writes to me:
What should I not miss when in Ghana?
And even though I wrote about Ghana Highlights not long ago, I can't help but to craft a list as an answer to her very open question. Here are the 13 things you must not miss when in Ghana.

1. Fufu- Ghana's national dish of a spicy soup with fish and meat and a delicious gooey ball of fufu.
2. A funeral (!)
3. A cold Star at sunset.
4. Omo tuo with Groundnut soup - Northern Ghana's national dish.
5. Ripe mango and sweet green "Fanti" pineapple.
6. High life music (some of the big hotels in Accra have live bands) and contemporary music ( such as the one performed at Bless the Mic on Thursday's at Cinderella's in Accra)
7. Cape Coast or Elmina castles for an insight into West Africa's history.
8. Kakum rainforest, see WikiTravel page here
9. Grilled tilapia - this ginger and chili infused sweet water fish smells so good my vegetarian friend recently crossed sides...
10. Blue Skies ginger and pinapple smoothie
11. Buying colorful wax print or tie-n-dye cloth and getting clothes sown for you.
12. Chasing crabs on the beach. Mission impossible?
13. Braiding your hair. The best souvenir!

As I live to eat, this list is in hindsight a bit biased towards food and drink (1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and possibly also 12). Which Ghana musts have I forgotten?

Pic: Bon appetit!

Ghanaian Entrepreneurship: Maksi Clothing Starts with a Boom!

Today, I am proud of fellow blogger Nana Darkoa who, together with her sister Abena, has creted a clothing line: Maksi. Right now the she is featured on Tv3 saying
"fashion is part of life"
"tonight, amazing models will be walking a catwalk specially built over a swimming pool."

Indeed, 7PM tonight a fashion show is taking off at the classy African Regent Hotel. I've seen a sneak peak of some of the clothes on Facebook and they look young and fun with a local flare.

I think this initiative is part of something bigger, something inherently Ghanaian - entrepreneurship. Most Ghanaians I know (!) has a company on the side of their regular job. Many of them dream about one day doing it full time, but understand you have to start small. Many of them are excellent sales people who cater to the needs of their country. It is very inspiring and exciting!

Maksi Clothing might be an especially professional venture with a big launch with hired models, good photography and copy writing, but it is definitely part of a much wider trend of Ghanaian entrepreneurship.

Adidas Apologizes: Kente Is Our Inspiration

Do you remember the Adidas shoe which was marketed as "Kenta" style misrepresenting the West African Kente cloth that I wrote on here?

Fellow blogger Kwabena/GhanaHype today posted the reply he got from Adidas when complaining of their ignorance. The core of the message is
We regrettably made an error in the copywriting process when describing this shoe.
Read it in full here.

In the pic: A Kente weaver shows how to make Kente.

University Strike in Ghana?

Read my report at University World News on the current situation here.

To be continued.

Ashesi Awarded Again! Microsoft Alumni Foundation 2009 Integral Fellow

It seems Ashesi Founder Patrick Awuah is on a winning streak - This week, he was honored with the 2009 Integral Fellow Award by his former employer, Microsoft. See press release here and finalist video above.

The mission of the award is
to catalyze the collective power of the Microsoft alumni and leverage our resources on innovative, scalable, transformative solutions to our world’s challenges. Integral Fellows serve as that catalyst, sharing their stories of struggle, success, and inspiration.

Even though I am not particularly a fan of Microsoft, I must say it really impresses me to hear about them having an "alumni" foundation. It is something very modern about a company suggesting that employees will at some point "graduate", not quit (or stay the rest of their working lives). So far, none of my former workplaces have considered me an alum - but I guess they should. I still care about what is going on where I have spent thousands of productive hours and I owe much of my success to what I have learned with them - and I guess it reflects well on them too when I do well elsewhere.

Is this the new work market we see unfolding?

Strike in Public Universities in Ghana

Today came with the news of that Ghana's two major universities, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and University of Ghana (UG) are closed due to strikes among the teachers. This immediately affects the mid-semester exams at these institutions and reportedly libraries also closed and students could be seen "roaming about in search of a place for research", according to Joy FM.

When we discussed the situation at my workplace today, opinions varied from that teachers should continue to provide a service for paying students - to that government has had time to do the correct payments and should not be worrying already low payed lecturers with delays. I know for sure this is affecting a lot of people (including myself who is waiting to hear from UG about my PhD application) who re just trying to get an education.

I've heard friends talk about the university teacher strike in 1995 which lasted a whole year. Lets hope this will be solved quicker!

Pic: Graduating students at University of Ghana

Review of Film About Blogging : Julie & Julia

Just saw the first major motion picture to be based on a blog, Julie & Julia.

It was interesting to see a film (loosely) based on a blog, but I must say my friends and I much preferred the story about the eccentric cookbook writer Julia Child, whimsically performed by Maryl Streep, compared to the bland "heroine" Julie the Blogger. Ultimately, a blog should provide you with stories you otherwise do not get access to, but this blog seemed to be a rather predictable story on how to become a famous blogger.

Still, the film was an entertaining Nora Ephron construction complete with lovable supporting characters (the Julix husbands), lovely Parisian bistrot milieus and loads of butter-drenched food to love.

Enjoy the official trailer here. Bon Appetit!

Ghana Highlights

Had some friends staying over and spending a lovely day with me. They had just arrived from the cold north and were extremely content with the weather, the food, the lodging - well, everything!

Their fresh and foreign outlook made me see that some things that have become ordinary to me, actually are quite extraordinary. Of course, as their one-day host I also tried to show Ghana from her best side. And what a day I had! Here are today's highlights.

5. Cruising in my car seeing the vivacious street life pass by.
4. Swimming in a nearby hotel pool (I could really do this every day, if I only weren't so "morning challenged").
3. Visiting with my Ghanaian family, they are wonderful and fun!
2. Fruit for breakfast: Pineapple, papaya and perfectly ripen mango.
1. Talking about Ghanaian culture - names, funerals, political history, everyday life. All so rich!

As I watched them get into a taxi towards the beach, I somehow knew I had been able to give them a taste of the traditional Ghanaian welcoming - Akwaaba!

Ashesi Founder Recieves Prize

Woke up this morning to some very fine news. My employer received the John P. McNulty Prize of USD 100,000 with this wonderful motivation:
"In Patrick Awuah we have found not only immense personal leadership in founding Ashesi, one of the African continent's first liberal arts universities, but in the school's commitment to ethics and civics as a central part of education, he has guaranteed future generations of leaders for Ghana, Africa and the world."

Read the whole press release here.

I am proud to go to work today!

Patrick Awuah and I at a conference in August 2008.

Step Forward

Today, I have been invited to give a seminar on my proposal at University of Ghana. I have prepared a simple outline of the most important stuff: working hypothesis, theoretical backdrop and methodology and will in between argue for the relevance of this study.

Wish me luck!

Pic: Science in Ghana in the 1960s as presented by Prof Abena Osseo-Asare.

Adidas Hidden African Inspiration: The "Kenta" Shoe

Yesterday,Kwabena, a fellow blogger alerted us Ghanablogging members of that Adidas is using Ghanaian Kente cloth on a shoe calling it Kenta and acting as they invented it.

Kente is Ghana's (and Togo's) pride, being delicately woven in narrow strips by skilled craftsmen - almost always men. Kente is then sewn and worn at very festive occasions such as weddings or just a few strips over the shoulder as a sign of beauty and wealth.

An interesting debate weather or not one can say Adidas "stole" has arisen on ghanablogging's mailing list (hopefully soon the other side of the debate can be read here and here). I'm all for intellectual property rights, but can a country or an ethnic group have the right to a weaving technique? Have we even tried to patent it? Sure, it would have been nice had Adidas recognized their (potentially huge) market in Ghana and West Africa and called Kente by its real name...but it is a crime not to do so?

As has rightly been pointed out, African Americans, Caribbeans and also other ethnic groups in Ghana have also claimed kente as of late and I don't hear them saying it is Ghanaian/Togolese.

Actually, these days a lot of the Kente for British and American markets is made by Asians, see this book Money has No Smell by Paul Stoller for more info on this interesting transnational phenomenon.

So rather than forming a blog-war against Adidas, should we instead sue China?

Let me also offer a bonus conspiracy theory: Adidas call it "Kenta" to avoid any legal issues with people claiming "Kente". Aha!

In the Pic the famous Kenta shoe. Photo credit to Adidas.

Ghana Guide on the Web

The Bradt Travel Guide to Ghana (most recent edition is 2007) by Philip Briggs is now available on the web with Google books! See link here.

This guide is positively personable, amazingly accurate and dot on detailed (including great maps of places before Google Maps even existed!). I recommend it to anyone coming this way!

In the pic: Me and my husband being tourists in our country, I think around xmas 2007.
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